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Estonia Design Report 2018-2020

Estonia’s fourth action plan continues the priorities of previous action plans such as fostering transparent and inclusive policy making and developing democratic participation skills. Overall, the fourth action plan is more strategic in its focus compared to previous plans and thus has a higher potential to change government practices. Moving forward, Estonia can further improve the ambition of its commitments by including activities that can last through several action plans and aligning the OGP process with other long-term strategic processes.

Table 1. At a glance

Participating since:    2011

Action plan under review:    4

Report type:    Design

Number of commitments:    6

Action plan development

Is there a multistakeholder forum? Yes

Level of public influence:    Collaborate

Acted contrary to OGP process:    No

Action plan design

Commitments relevant to OGP values:    6 (100%)

Transformative commitments:    2 (33%)

Potentially starred commitments:    2 (33%)

Action plan implementation

Starred commitments:    N/A

Completed commitments:    N/A

Commitments with Major DIOG*:    N/A

Commitments with Outstanding DIOG*:    N/A

*DIOG: Did it Open Government?

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global partnership that brings together government reformers and civil society leaders to create action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive, and accountable. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) monitors all action plans to ensure governments follow through on commitments. Estonia joined OGP in 2011. Since then, it has implemented three action plans. This report evaluates the design of Estonia’s fourth action plan.

General overview of action plan

Estonia enters its fourth action plan as a leading performer in the areas of good governance, transparency, and e-government. The fourth action plan continues to promote inclusive and open policy making (at the national and local levels) as well as fostering civic engagement and democratic skills through technological solutions. Overall, the commitments in the fourth action plan are narrower and more strategic in focus and have a higher potential to improve open government compared to previous action plans.

To develop Estonia’s fourth action plan, the Government Office actively solicited input from the OGP Coordinating Council and government institutions and held regular stakeholder meetings. Civil society was highly involved during the idea-gathering phase and while adopting the final commitments. For the next action plan, the government could prioritize engaging a more diverse set of stakeholders who have not been involved the OGP process, such as people with disabilities and rural communities.

Estonia’s fourth action plan includes six commitments that mostly focus on advancing civic engagement and transparency in national-level policy-making processes and local governance and fostering democratic participation skills. Several commitments are carried forward from the previous action plan but are more strategic in their focuses.

Notable commitments include creating a new e-consultation system that allows citizens to engage during all phases of the policy-making process (Commitment 1) and developing an online tool for citizens to obtain information and leave feedback on public services offered at the local level (Commitment 5). Also of note is Commitment 3, which aims to improve the transparency of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) by publishing data on plenary meetings and minutes of committee sittings.

Table 2. Noteworthy commitments

Commitment description Moving forward Status at the end of implementation cycle
1. Information technology supporting transparent and inclusive policy making

Prepare a new online tool to enable citizens to track the status of policy initiatives throughout the policy cycle and participate in different stages of policy development.

The IRM researcher recommends continuing this commitment in future action plans and engaging different groups of users into all phases of the system design to shape the system according to their expectations. The government could also integrate the new system with existing platforms that citizens already use and continue developing policymakers’ skills in public engagement. Note: this will be assessed at the end of action plan cycle.
5. Simple and user-friendly presentation of the local public service levels

Develop an online tool available for citizens to obtain information on local public services and for the government to improve public services offered.

The Ministry of Finance could design the system development in a collaborative way to involve representatives of key user groups and ensure their needs are addressed. The tool can also be used by municipalities to further develop innovative data-driven services to citizens. Note: this will be assessed at the end of action plan cycle.

Recommendations

The IRM recommendations aim to inform the development of the next action plan and guide implementation of the current action plan.

Table 3. Five KEY IRM Recommendations

Prioritize engaging more diverse stakeholders in the development of OGP action plans, in particular groups facing more barriers to political participation (e.g. people with disabilities, rural communities).
Dedicate funds to the Government Office’s Strategy Unit for strengthening stakeholder engagement around OGP action plans. Part of these activities may also be carried out in partnership with members of the Coordinating Council and the civil society roundtable.
Continue focusing on 5-6 commitments in a few priority areas. The areas could be selected on the basis of stakeholders’ priorities, in agreement with the implementing institutions.
Continue implementing commitments that involve the development of civic tech, fostering open government at the local level, and bringing civil society and public officials together around a common interest or goal (e.g. joint projects, events and platforms).
Design more ambitious commitments that can last through several action plans, providing verifiable milestones for each step. Align the OGP process with other large-scale strategic processes such as the state reform or the Estonia 2035 strategy process and determine where OGP can add value.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maarja Toots is a researcher and PhD candidate in Public Administration at the Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance of the Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. Her main research areas include e-government and ICT-driven innovation in the public sector, with a particular focus on the use of ICT for citizen participation and collaboration with external stakeholders. She has worked both in the public and non-governmental sector, managing projects on issues such as development cooperation and civic education.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) assesses development and implementation of national action plans to foster dialogue among stakeholders and improve accountability.

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